Ranking the 2021 Best Picture Nominees

Ranking 2021 nominees

This is the third year that I shall be ranking the Best Picture Nominees for the Academy Awards. This year I’m not quite as invested in the film awards given that it’s taken me this long to actually release it, but I thought that I might as well give my thoughts on the nominees.

Considering the past year’s weird year for movies with plenty of pushbacks of release dates, this year’s lineup of nominees was actually great. Not only did I like them all, almost all of them are great, there’s just one film that’s out of place here, but I even liked that movie. Out of the three years where I’ve ranked the Best Picture nominees, this has to be the strongest lineup yet.

The ranking of the nominees is all based off my personal preference and how much I liked them.

8. The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Trial of the Chicago 7 was one of the frontrunners for Best Picture, but at this point it seems to have become firmly the least liked best picture nominee by many. I understand a lot of the criticisms, and even agree with a lot of them. Upon further thought, some of writer and director Aaron Sorkin’s “sorkinisms” can get a little annoying, specifically with how he decided to portray certain events and people from the real life story. It is certainly a movie that I like a lot less now compared to when I first saw it. Still, a year where The Trial of the Chicago 7 is the worst Best Picture nominee is a pretty good year for the Oscars. Ultimately, it’s the script and performances that still has me liking the movie a considerable amount, it’s a fairly engaging and energetic courtroom thriller. The script keeps you locked in from beginning to end with a fast pace, and it has some great dialogue. There’s also some solid acting from the massive cast here, with the highlights being Sacha Baron Cohen, Yayha Abdul-Mateen II and Mark Rylance. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is worth watching, but it still very much the weakest of the nominees.

My review of The Trial of the Chicago 7

7. Minari

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The much talked about Minari rightfully makes its presence known at the Oscars with a well deserved Best Picture nomination. It’s a real portrait of the immigrant experience of a Korean-American family in search of the American Dream, and as it’s based off director Lee Isaac Chung’s childhood, that makes it even more personal and special. It isn’t a plot driven movie, instead focusing on many moments, both little and notable, which only add to the naturalness of the story. These characters’ story is tender, heartfelt, emotional, funny and above all else, genuine and human. On top of the compelling story as well as the beautiful direction and look of the movie, the performances from everyone are natural and outstanding, with Steven Yeun, Alan Kim and Youn Yuh-jung being the standouts. Minari is a great and personal family drama, and it absolutely deserved its nominations at this year’s Oscars.

My review of Minari

6. Judas and the Black Messiah

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Despite being quite a late release in Oscar season, Judas and the Black Messiah was quite a standout movie among the nominees. It could’ve been a by the numbers biopic based on significant true events, however it is captivating from beginning to end, tightly scripted and compelling, with a strong energy and intense atmosphere throughout. It also isn’t a typical biopic, it felt more like a historical drama thriller, and in some ways that actually helps the movie more. This movie is timely, meaningful and impactful to today’s society with the topics it covers, and it really lingers in the mind long after watching. The movie is definitely hard to watch at times, it’s a powerhouse tragedy of a drama that is more truthful and unapologetic than you would expect a big budget awards movie having. This riveting and greatly delivered story is paired with a great supporting cast including Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback and Ashton Sanders, as well as excellent lead performances from Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stansfield (both of whom are very much deserving of their acting nominations). Judas and the Black Messiah is a bold and fantastic film that deserves its praise and accolades. It may be a late release, but definitely check it out when you get the chance to if you haven’t already.

My review of Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Nomadland

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Nomadland seems to be very much the frontrunner of the nominees, and it’s not difficult to see why. While it’s not at the top of my list, it very much deserves all the love and acclaim. Essentially, it is a poetic, quiet and contemplative character study, and an intimate look at loss and grief. The movie is fairly plotless and there isn’t much driving the story, but given the nature of the actual plot and characters, that is actually quite fitting. You get lost in the lead character’s journey as you are quite invested with what is happening with her story. The acting from everyone was great but it really is the story of Frances McDormand’s lead character. McDormand is subtle and understated yet incredibly powerful in this role, and she gives quite possibly her best performance yet. The standout aspect in this whole movie however is the work from director Chloe Zhao. Her direction is phenomenal on so many levels, perfect on a technical level for sure. It is clearly crafted with so much love and care, and she’s more than capable of telling a story with even just the movement of the camera alone. The cinematography is natural yet gorgeous, everything looks beautiful whether the focus of the shots are stunning landscapes, or relatively mundane places or objects. I perfectly understand if a lot of people don’t like this movie, it is quite slow, and you really have to get invested in the story and the lead character’s journey to really have it work for you. However, I still think it is one of the best films from the past year.

My review of Nomadland

4. Sound of Metal

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Sound of Metal was in some awards discussions, but I didn’t think that it would get much attention from the Oscars outside of a couple nominations. However, it got nominated a total of 6 times, including Best Picture, and I’m so happy that it got this attention. The story of a drummer who suddenly has to adjust to his new circumstances after he begins to lose his hearing may go on a narrative arc familiar to many other stories, but it has this genuine, thoughtful and rawness throughout that hooks you in emotionally. It refrains from large moments of drama and instead focuses on quiet and powerful character interactions and moments that have you constantly engaged. By the end of the movie, it is a truly heartbreaking yet uplifting story all at once. The acting is also phenomenal. Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci are strong and powerful supporting players, while Riz Ahmed gives some of the best acting work of the year in the lead role with a believable, naturalistic and truly human performance. Even the technical choices and directions were incredibly effective, especially with how it plays with sound and what we (or the lead character) hear or don’t hear. It doesn’t seem like Sound of Metal is one of the leading contenders for Best Picture but I’m just glad that it’s getting recognised at the very least.

My review of Sound of Metal

3. Promising Young Woman

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Promising Young Woman is one of the most controversial, polarising and much talked about movies from 2020, and everyone who saw it had a pretty strong opinion on it. There are some people who love it, and some people who hated it, and I’m thankfully in the former camp. Despite the initial look of the movie from the trailers and other marketing, it is more than I expected it to be. It is a revenge movie as advertised, but was also a character study, jumped between multiple tones seamlessly, and was a lot more nuanced than expected, while having a subversive, thrilling, and unpredictable plot. Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut is confident, bold and impressive here, it is meritoriously crafted on all fronts, visually stunning and with a strong style. Then of course one of the key elements to this movie: Carey Mulligan, who gives an outstanding and complex performance, and one of the highlights from the past year. At the very least, this film is a great showcase for her excellent acting talents. Promising Young Woman was already one of the most standout films from 2020, but it is great to see it get recognised at the Oscars, regardless of whether it wins anything or not.

My review of Promising Young Woman

2. Mank

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Mank is probably one of the least popular of the nominees. Even if it doesn’t seem to be this year’s Best Picture ‘enemy’ (The Trial of the Chicago 7), it really has a very niche audience. It’s a movie about the writing of Citizen Kane, set in the 30s and 40s, and made to look like it was made from that era. While I wouldn’t try to claim that it’s one of director David Fincher’s most accessible work, I am one of the few people who actually do love this film and think it’s great. The story of Mank may essentially be about the writing of one of the greatest movies of all time (as proclaimed by certain people at least), but it is mainly about the screenwriter himself, and what inspired him to do this. It’s also about Hollywood in the 30s and 40s, the politics at the time, and the Hollywood system and its many flaws. I found that quite interesting to watch, even if not everyone did. The whole cast were great, with the likes of Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lilly Collins, Charles Dance and more delivering some great work, with Oldman particularly giving the best performance I’ve seen from him. On a technical level it is perfect, Fincher has directed this movie excellently. It does well at recreating the looks of film from the 40s with black and white, film grain and the sound mixing, it is a stunning movie, and it really immerses you in that era. While many could understandably write it off as just another movie about Hollywood, it still actually feels like there was passion behind it. Mank is not going to win the Best Picture award but if it did somehow did, I think it would deserve it.

My review of Mank

1. The Father

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Probably an unexpected pick for the favourite nominee out of the 8. The Father looked like textbook Oscar bait, excellent award winning actors starring in a movie based off a play about someone who is getting old, and the marketing didn’t do much to help change that perception. I went into it expecting something good, however it was truly phenomenal on so many levels. There have been plenty of movies focusing on people on dementia but its never been portrayed like this. The Father plays more like a slow moving nightmare or horror movie despite being a drama essentially. The unreliable perspective is used incredibly well as we are in the lead character’s confused point of view, conveyed excellently through the writing and plotting, as well as writer and director Florian Zeller’s outstanding technical work. And I can’t talk about this movie before touching upon the performances, mainly the two nominated with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. Colman is incredibly believable as someone who is grappling with watching her father slowly declining, one of her best acting work. But it is Hopkins’s movie, and this is truly his all time best performance in his long and fantastic acting career. He is absolutely phenomenal, breath-taking and heartwrenching in the lead role. He’s pitch perfect from beginning to end, and it is quite possibly one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. It’s not a movie that I want to watch again, not just because of the subject matter, but also because it’s such an emotional and rough experience of a movie. However out of all these 8 movies, it had the longest lasting impact on me. A truly outstanding film that unfortunately doesn’t have a strong chance at winning, but is at the very least recognised by being one of the nominees.

My review of The Father

What are your ranking of this year’s Best Picture Nominees, and what do you think of the nominees?

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